U.S. Weight Loss Industry Struggles in 2020, but Commercial Chains Survive Pandemic

Fit woman doing stretching exercises outdoors and smilingThe total U.S. weight loss market hit a new peak in 2019, growing to $78 billion. However, that growth came to a halt when the coronavirus hit last March, shutting the doors of many weight loss centers, doctors’ offices, clinics, and other businesses for 8–10 weeks. As a result, the market’s value is estimated to have fallen by 21%.  
Part of the weight loss market was hit hard in 2020. Customer volumes at medical weight loss programs based in hospitals, franchises and regional chains, and physician offices plummeted. However, there were bright spots, namely: commercial chains that pivoted to virtual meetings and home delivery and drop shipping of diet foods, multi-level marketers, booming retail sales of frozen diet dinners, and shelf stable meal replacements.
The Covid-19 crisis forced many weight loss businesses to accelerate the shift toward virtual delivery of services. Dieters are accessing weight loss coaching and exercise programs much more via Zoom meetings, Skype, apps, webinars, websites, live streaming, coaching by phone, and home workouts.

6 Things to Know About the U.S. Weight Loss Industry

1. Revenues of major commercial weight loss chains actually held up well last year, growing by an estimated 6.8% in 2020 to $4.07 billion. These include chains such as WW, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Medifast, and others.
2. Sales of frozen diet dinners and low-carb foods are estimated to have risen to $2.1 billion, as homebound consumers stocked up on them for convenience during the pandemic.
3. Hospitals and clinics cancelled elective surgeries such as weight loss procedures, because they were focused on treating COVID-19 patients. Consequently, this segment of the market fell 20% from $8.8 billion to $7.1 billion in 2020. Bariatric surgeries declined from 256,000 to an estimated 205,000.
4. Revenues of health & fitness clubs took a major hit, declining by 37% from $35 billion to $22 billion, due to pandemic-related closures. This is one of the hardest hit segments of the weight loss market, as these facilities were among the first to close and among the last to reopen for business. An estimated 17% of health clubs went out of business last year in the U.S.
5. Multi-level marketing companies constitute a major force in the weight loss market, with the top 8 firms accounting for $3.4 billion in 2020 sales. Included in this group are Medifast, Herbalife, Shaklee, BeachBody, AMWAY, USANA, Isagenix, and more.
6. Meal replacements and retail appetite suppressants (diet pills) sales remained stable in 2020. They have largely escaped effects of the pandemic due to their easy availability and low price. MLM and internet/mail order channels remained open during the pandemic. Meal replacements (such as shakes and nutrition bars) accounted for $3.0 billion, and retail diet pills accounted for $2.08 billion in sales.

Find Out More

To learn more about this dynamic industry, check out Marketdata's new report The U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market (16th Edition), which is now available on MarketResearch.com. This is a completely revised and updated analysis of Marketdata’s best-selling biennial study about the U.S. weight loss market. 
New for this edition:
  • Effects of the pandemic on operations/revenues for all market segments
  • How dieter behavior changed with the pandemic
  • 2021 & 2025 forecasts
  • The most popular diets like Keto and intermittent fasting
  • Leading competitor top management interviews
  • How the 2021 diet season is shaping up
  • Why MLM has gained as a distribution model
  • Why meal replacements are still strong, but not retail diet pills.
  • Outlook for medical weight loss programs of all types and why they’ve lost momentum

Visit the report page to read the full abstract and learn more.

The U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market

About the Author:  John LaRosa is the President of Marketdata LLC and is the author of 100+ industry and market studies. His research appears in top media outlets including ABC, CNN, Fox, ForbesUSA TodayThe Wall Street JournalThe New York Times, and a variety of trade journals. 

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